Archive for August, 2013

Sharknado: Prologue and Chapter One

This is something I’ve been thinking about for a few weeks, since Andy Shaffer bemoaned a lack of a Sharknado novelization on Twitter. Since it’s still on my Tivo, and I’ve got some extra time…why the hell not?

Sharknado, the unauthorized novelization.
By Thor Davidson
Based on a screenplay by Thunder Levin.

Prologue – Sharknado

The storm turned sky and ocean into a single slate gray as rain pelted the swelling waves. The water was cut and churned by dark gray dorsal fins. First pairs, then dozens and hundred as sharks rushed ahead of the storm. Behind them, pushing them, compelling them, a waterspout connected cloud to water. The suction from the great cyclone pulled at the ocean, and from it plucked the sharks, one by one, forcing them skyward.

The fury of nature and the fury of the predators merged into a single entity.

They were now a sharknado.

Chapter One – Fins To The Left

Twenty miles off the coast of Mexico, in the still grayness of the overcast Atlantic, a fishing boat bobbed on gentle waves. The crew pulled the nets in, and with them dozens of small sharks, which they laid out over the deck of the ship. In turn each was butchered, their bellies slit open from jaw to tail, GPS trackers carved off when found, and their fins stacked in two piles. Large fins to the left, smaller fins to the right.

“Toss ’em and bag ’em!” shouted the crew chief, his face covered in a week’s stubble and topped with a gray hat.

Palmer was clearly out of place in these surroundings, dressed in a smart gray suit with a gray shirt.¬† He’d been wearing the outfit since they’d left the coast three days ago, and was now starting to smell rather like the sharks being brought to the knife on the deck above. However, it matched his general gray personality.

Palmer was on this boat for one reason. He wanted those fins. The captain of the boat, Santiago, entered the small galley in which Palmer was waiting. It was utilitarian but stunningly clean for its duties. Palmer was seated on a bench behind a long table, light gray with dark wood trim. He was, in fact, surrounded by light gray with dark wood trim.

Santiago produced a small bowl of soup and dropped it in front of Palmer with a sneer. “Enjoy.”

Palmer picked up the bowl, and toasted the captain, before taking a long sip from the soup.

“It’s good,” he lied, returning the bowl of swill to the table and meeting the eyes of the captain as he sat across from him at the table. “Seeing as you are a business man, Mr. Santiago–”

“Captain!” Santiago interrupted with a sneer, not wanting to be shown up by a mere passenger on his ship.

Palmer laughed at the correction, but obliged Santiago. “Captain. My associates and I are willing to negotiate a reasonable price. Let’s say one hundred thousand.”

Santiago laughed a slack-jawed laugh at the offer. His face then turned dead serious as he slammed his fist on the table. Silverware, which had not previously been set, went flying. “One million for the entire take,” Santiago sneered in an indistinct accent, “not a penny less.”

“Steep price for a small catch,” Palmer returned.

“A pod of twenty thousand sharks is migrating in this direction. When we’re done, one million will look like a buck.”

Palmer considered these words from the captain, especially as many of them hadn’t made much sense. He adjusted his glasses. “Five hundred.” His company trusted him in these negotiations as his face conveyed no emotion during tense talks. Or at any other point.

Santiago pushed away from the table with a sharp breath. He pulled a gun, cocked it, and rested it on the table. “If you’re looking to negotiate, Mr. Palmer, look for an insurance salesman.”

Palmer’s eyes moved from the gun and back to Santiago. “I do believe we have a deal.”

Santiago grinned.

On deck the crew scrambled and shouted. At the horizon, above the gray waves, gray clouds were forming and an ill wind pushed their course. “Get the captain from the galley!”

“Captain!” One of the crew called down the gray stairs leading to the galley. Santiago turned at his title. “There’s a north wind hitting us fast. You need to get up here.”

Palmer pushed a brown metal box across the table. “I think this is for you, captain. A deposit.”

Santiago opened the tackle box. Within were bundled stacks of crisp $100 bills. Not the new ones that are so colorful, but the older ones. Not the really old ones, but the ones in the middle when Franklin’s head got bigger but the bills were still green. Yeah, those. Perhaps if Palmer was willing to come on board with so much money, he wasn’t as stupid as he looked, Santiago considered. Perhaps he was, in fact, much stupider.

Santiago looked from the money to Palmer with a sneer. “You know the most important thing I learn out here?” he asked. “We shouldn’t be afraid of the sharks. They are the ones that should be afraid of us.” He lifted a tin gray coffee mug. “Salud.”

Palmer returned the toast.

Outside the weather was getting rougher. The sea was now a dark gray, reflecting the sky, and sheets of gray rain poured down. The boat lurched, spoiling the toast as Santiago and Palmer lunged across the galley.

“What the hell was that?” Palmer asked, mood unswayed by the situation.

“That is called ‘waves.’ They happen from time to time.” Santiago sneered again as Palmer watched him leave the galley with a blank expression.

The ship crested a fresh wave as Santiago arrived at the wheel. “Storm’s too strong! We’re going to have to go around it!” his helmsman warned.

Santiago yelled at the helmsman, an angry yell of words so accented and buffeted by the wind and rain as to make them incomprehensible. Something about the course. He then returned to the galley with a sample of their catch, but Palmer was gone. As was the tackle box of bills. Santiago drew his gun and pulled back the hammer with a sneer.

As the waves buffeted the boats, fresh sharks were pushed out of the ocean and landed on the deck. One of the hands shouted down the gray stairs, “Captain!” but couldn’t finish the thought before a shark flew across the deck and tackled him. Santiago rushed back up the stairs, reaching the deck in time to see his crewman disappearing into a shark’s jaws. It was the damnedest thing he’d seen in his time on the sea. Sharks typically only flopped around when on deck, slowly drowning in the air. This one, however, was still alive and hungry. The crewman screamed one last time before dying.

Palmer surfaced on deck with his gun and tackle box, looking for a place to hide on the small ship. Or, perhaps, a place to escape. His face betrayed no motives. He ducked behind the bridge and fired off a covering shot as Santiago turned to follow him. Palmer stepped around the gore of sharks and men on the deck, hurrying for the aft of the ship.

Santiago rushed along the deck, then ducked back as Palmer squeezed off two more shots from the cover of the nets. Santiago closed the remaining distance. The two men circled the massive wince at the aft of the ship. Palmer stopped, leveled his gun, and waited for the captain to reemerge. Santiago did so, gun first, so the two men now faced each other in a Mexican standoff standing off the Mexican coast.

“Change of plans, captain,” Palmer said, flatly, “I’m going to take the money, the cargo, and this fucked up ship.”

Santiago sneered at Palmer’s threat, and calmly put a bullet through the man’s gray suit pants and into his leg. “I don’t think so.” The tackle box dropped to the deck and the stacks of money blew apart in the wind.

Palmer grappled at the wound. A shark then leaped from the ocean, grabbed the business man in the suit around the chest, and pulled him back into the gray water.

Santiago sneered down at the water, watching man and shark vanish into the gray. He considered his next move as the sharknado pressed against his boat. Santiago sneered and cried out as first one, then two, then a third and fourth shark bit at him from the improbable storm, each grayer than the last. Finally he was dragged off in a cloud of red that broke up the grayness of everything.

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Back to the Past

The year: 1958. Sputnik reentered orbit, and the US put up their first satellite. Laika gets sent into orbit to die in the dark of space. NASA is created. It was the early stages of the space race, and a fine time to rejoin the Great Hugo Read already in progress. With the 2013 nominees completed and the awards next weekend, it’s time to look ahead to where we’re looking back to for the rest of the year:

September

Primary Read: The Big Time by Fritz Leiber. This is the first of the Hugo Winners that ended up in another form near and dear to my heart. Yes, in 1961 it was collected and republished as an Ace Double, paired with a collection of Leiber short stories. However, it won the Hugo back in 1958 after its serialization in Galaxy Magazine.

Secondary Read: Non-Stop by Brian Aldiss. I’ll admit, I’ve wanted to read this book for awhile. When I learned that the British Science Fiction Association looked back at 50 years of science fiction and picked Non-Stop over The Big Time, I had my excuse pegged down. It’s a generation ship story, hence my interest, and Aldiss’s first published work.

October

Primary Read: The 1959 Hugo went to James Blish for his novel A Case of Conscience, and is the story of a Jesuit who is trying to reconcile an alien race’s lack of religion with their morality. Three of the last six books for this year have a theme of religion running through them.

  • Print: In print, available from Amazon or check your local independent (or at least brick-and-mortar) bookseller.
  • Electronic: Not Available. What the hell, Del Ray Impact?
  • Audio: Available from Audible, narrated by Jay Snyder.

Secondary Read: We’re dipping our toes into the first Retro Hugo winner. Banned Books Week is in late September this year, so we’ll be a little late when getting to Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451.

  • Print: In print. Oh my in print. In print everywhere.
  • Electronic: Bradbury assented to digital publishing shortly before his death, so it’s available on Kindle and Nook.
  • Audio: Available from Audible with your choice of narrators: Stephen Hove, Christopher Hurt, or Bradbury himself.
  • Film: Released in 1966. Which I point out only as an excuse to point it out again with the next book…

November

Primary Read: Starship Troopers was the first Hugo Heinlein won on his way to becoming the most decorated writer in the award’s history. He does have one Retro Hugo that predates Troopers, but that’ll come up in 2014. It’s a book whose reputation precedes it, but that I’ve never actually read.

  • Print: In print.
  • Electronic: Available for Nook and Kindle.
  • Audio: Available from Audible, narrated by Lloyd James.
  • Film: Oh lord. I love this movie. I understand it takes a LOT of liberties with the book, and can be seen as a satire of the book rather than an adaptation of it. I’ve seen it several times, which should make reading the book…interesting?

Secondary Read: John Scalzi started his epic military sci-fi series with Old Man’s War, about soldiers recruited from the elderly of earth given new bodies and sent to fight the most creative array of aliens I can remember reading.

  • Print: In print.
  • Electronic: Available from Nook and Kindle.
  • Audio: Available from Audible, narrated by William Dufris.
  • Film: Likely to get fast tracked if Ender’s Game performs well at the box office.

December

Primary Read: We’re back to themes of religion with Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz. I’ve tried for a cohesive theme for December, with this book looking at religion in a post apocalyptic future, and the next looking at a dystopic future caused by religion. I try to be equal opportunity.

Secondary Read: I’ll admit, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into when I thought to put The Handmaid’s Tale in the spot, but the more I learn about the book, the more interested I am to read it. It’s certainly a book that people have Opinions about. The kind of opinions that necessitate capitalization.

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Hypothetical Hugo Ballot, Pt2

Last time out I looked at the dramatic presentation categories. Now that I’ve finished the last of the five novel nominees, I’m ready with the ballot that I would submit. If I could. Which I can’t. Let’s get right to it, then commentary:

  1. BlackoutBlackout
  2. Redshirts
  3. 2312
  4. Throne of the Crescent Moon
  5. Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance

First there’s a clear division on the ballot between my top two picks and my bottom three picks. Blackout and Redshirts were the two books of the five that I had a difficult time putting down. Redshirts I tore through in three nights, Blackout I read the last 120 pages in a single night. If there’s a better reason of dividing a ballot into halves, I can’t think of it.

Ultimately I went with Blackout for two reasons. One, on its own I felt it was a more compelling and entertaining novel than Redshirts. Two, I feel the entire Newsflesh trilogy deserves some recognition beyond just nominations. While only the last part is being considered this year, I feel it’s appropriate with a self-contained trilogy to consider the work as a whole when deciding whether or not to honor the third part. It’s why Lord of the Rings swept up so many Oscars with¬†Return of the King. Newsflesh did so many things well it’s hard to know where to start. Especially harder since many of the things it did so well are rather massive spoilers to the entire series.

Redshirts ends up second because it was the other book I loved, I just didn’t love it as much as Blackout.

In the lower half of the ballot, I didn’t include a No Award vote. Though I almost did. To be blunt, I’m not sure Captain Vorpatril would have been nominated standing on its own, not part of a long running series from a well respected author. At no point did I dislike the read, but it wasn’t as strong as the other four nominees.

In between Redshirts and Vorpatril is my bias for science fiction over fantasy shining through. It’s my hypothetical ballot, it gets subjected to my biases.

I’d be curious about how anyone else would vote (or, if you’re so bold as to go on record, did vote). Drop me a comment if you’ve read all five. Agree with me completely. Tell me what an idiot I am. I’m interested to see how others would rank this year’s field. And remember that the awards will be presented on September 1, and they’ve promised the stream won’t be killed by a copyright claim this year.

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Bezos and the Washington Post

PostMaZonI don’t suppose I’m breaking the news that Jeff Bezos hit the 1-Click ordering button for the Washington Post and this morning woke up wondering just how the hell he spent $250,000,000 last night. This is why I don’t have 1-Click ordering turned on. Plenty of websites are trying to figure out the business implications of this move, and just how hands-on Bezos might be with the editorial page of the paper. However, I’m thrilled to break at least some news that you’ll read first on Writerly Words.

The Washington Post will merge with Kindle Digital Printing.

This move is seen as a big positive for the paper. They can now offer articles from beyond traditional journalists. These new stories won’t have to go through the gatekeepers of editors, type setters, or fact checking, and can be offered directly to the reading public at a price agreed on by the writer then reduced, unannounced, by Amazon.

But that’s only half of the good news. The Washington Post will now join Slaughterhouse-Five as the newest addition to Kindle Worlds. This means that writers can create their own unique fiction set in the exciting world of The Washington Post, creating their own plotlines for well known characters. Who hasn’t wondered what would happen if Woodward and Bernstein turned their investigative eyes away from the Nixon Administration and towards ferreting out the vampire threat trying to infiltrate the House of Representatives? Wanted to read about Ezra Klein’s adventures as a swashbuckling spy? All these story lines and more will be opened up for writers and readers to explore.

I, for one, am excited.

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State of the Writer: August 2013

It’s a Monday morning and I’m sitting at home typing on my personal laptop. Not because I’ve taken the day off, but because I’ve been given it off, along with tomorrow, the day after, and every day after that. It’s an infinite-day weekend. The layoff I’ve mentioned a time or two in the blog is now finalized, and I don’t yet have anything lined up, so for the time being this is my life. Get up, help get the baby out the door, watch my life leave for work, then figure out how to fill the day with a mix of job hunting and keeping myself sane.

I’m going to try not to let this blog turn into my gripes about the situation. But there’s every chance that the nature of this blog may change over the next few weeks, in ways I can’t currently predict. It might be one of my keeping sane outposts, in which case posting will go up. I might be too busy trying to get a job, in which case postings will go down. I’m relying on you, dear readers, to give me a swift kick in the ass if I’m getting too woe-is-me in here. It’s not good for me, and no one wants to see that.

As for my writing? I feel like I need to take at least some advantage of this situation, so I’m setting myself to time goals.

Goal one: No more than one hour writing a day. I know that seems like a weird goal, but I’m the same person who once used writing a novel as a way of not packing for a move. While I could get some awesome writing done if I did nothing but write…I need something to keep paying the bills, and writing couldn’t do so in time to help.

Goal two: No less than two hours writing a week. Weekly ceiling is five hours, I’m hoping to hit at least 40% of that every week. While I don’t want writing to get in the way of my job hunt, I also don’t want to be handed some unemployment down time and not make some use of it.

This time will include first drafts, editing, outlining, anything that’s in the service of a story. In the pipeline is the first draft of a short that’s been percolating in my brain, then what I hope are final edits of a story I’ve been neglecting for far too long, and then perhaps some actual outlining of the next novel project.

Lemons and lemonade.

State of the Author’s Bees: I can see them from here, they’re looking pretty good. A hell of a lot better than they did at this point last year, at least. Wife did see one sign of a wax moth trying to get into the hive just to be fought off by the bees. Which is how it’s supposed to work.

State of the Author’s Beer: Bottled the apple ale. It’s about 6.8% alcohol by volume, so it’ll have a little kick. Finally figured out a name, too. It came from working backwards. I decided I want to call my next batch Wildberry Princess. So the apple ale landed the name Tree Trunks Apple Ale. Oh, Tree Trunks.

Alright, enough with this post, back to job hunting.

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